Year of Wonders


What could that possibly mean? Or,


It would be easier in a painting. Or, I held up three fingers, spread, and R immediately guessed what I meant. In the painting, three lines which could conceivably be church windows- long arches, three in a row- clearly were not.

“He was 51, and his girlfriend was in her twenties,” said a man excitedly to his son, who was either too young to really be interested in girls, or embarrassed. “Think of that!” So Picasso painted her, over and over again, in the same colours and much the same lines. Her head is back, her profile showing. Her forehead and nose form a straight line, a profile I find attractive, but he sometimes exaggerates as a lump.

The head back, in Guernica, is the abandonment of grief, but here can only be orgasm. Painting after painting, about three feet by four, all with that \|/ symbol, many with disembodied penises, each done in a day or so, an exuberant show of delight and exploitation of the punters who would buy anything.

I got to Tate Modern at 8am for the members’ hours, and so had two hours with Modigliani fairly quiet. H did not like all the female flesh, the caption noted that the pictures were sold to men, and that they were seen as obscene because of the pubic hair. Real Art had none. Any excuse, eh. I found myself looking at the faces. That woman pictured has agency. Sometimes the eyes were hypnotic.

One of The Tanks is empty but open. I walked across it, loving how the acoustic made my hand-claps pistol shots, loving the space, then went to ask a man with a camera, with a foot-long lens, how to convey the grandeur of the space in a photograph, and how much was found object, a fuel tank, and how much artifice. Those oblique pillars are new. He had a picture of me, clapping, in light from above, and promised to email it but hasn’t. Perhaps it was too blurred. I touched a rough patch in the wall, and a bit broke off.

In the Members’ room, queuing for a cup of tea I asked a man what he had seen. Once you know they’re penises you see them everywhere, he said, then speculated on whether the Nuisance action will stop people on the viewing platform from looking into those luxury flats. We have little sympathy for owners or residents.

Heritage, authenticity, allies

Mask in the LouvreBlogging, not writing- thinking this through-

I get angry, but one of my angriest times was two straight people telling a room of mostly straight people all about trans folk. They had trans friends, apparently. I went to the microphone and expostulated, and thereafter the impression people had of me was my anger. I am clear on this. I get to use the word “tranny”, speculate that I am a man, really, or write on the flaws of the Medical Model- coming up- and you don’t. Not unless you’re trans, not even if you are gay. If you imagine you have something in common with trans women, or have thought about transitioning but haven’t, you get to say what that’s like for you, but not for anyone else- “No-one should do it” arguments I despise particularly. If you’re gay, you get a little more leeway than if you’re straight.

Yes, you may have trans friends, or do Queer Studies, but if you get one tiny thing wrong– you have no right to do that.

I have been reading a slavery novel. More on that too, later, perhaps. Octavia Butler, African-American, set it in 2030 not 1830, when the economy of the US has collapsed. Her protagonist, Olamina, has one thing in common with her that I know- that both get relief from writing about their issues- so speculate she has others. I wondered why. Perhaps she was used to SF, perhaps she thought people would read an SF novel who would not read a slavery novel, perhaps she wanted 1990s people, not 19th century people, as characters- but perhaps there were heritage problems. (Blogging, now.) That suffering is not hers, even though she was a descendant. We need the voices of the real people, to honour rather than to interpret.

Duncan Campbell, saying the Nigerian constitution remained colonialist, bothered me. A Yoruba who has read Edward Said on Orientalism can criticise it like that, perhaps, but not a white Glaswegian. Voltaire is the heritage of the whole world, not just Les Demoiselles d'AvignonEurope. And- Campbell was arguing that. These African art works should be interpreted and shown by Africans considering their origin, not Europeans.

What of the- — – Marbles? Prospect debated it this month. One, calling them Elgin, said Greek Orthodox despising a pagan temple blew it up in 1670, the Turks were destroying them, and Greek air pollution would have finished the job. The Ottomans, having been in power for centuries, were the legitimate government. The other, calling them Parthenon, called the Ottomans the “occupying power”, and Lord Elgin a looter who bribed the guards. H cut through this- where should they be, now? Or- who has the connection to 5th century BCE Athenian culture?

This subject is too big for me. I want accuracy, if you talk about me, more so, for me, but do not know what accuracy would even mean, a post-colonial academic understanding of pre-colonial ways of being. In the Scottish Country Dancing, I noticed the English were better at it, taking more care. For us, it was just something we did. The converts were so self-conscious.

Stating the Problem II

Gertrude SteinThis is the problem: emotional lability and lack of motivation, though I feel I am making progress with the self-acceptance. Seeing the psychiatrist was good. I fear my anger- rather than being energised, I become locked up. I fear my fear.
-Can we discuss an incident?
-Well, staying at home alone I manage to avoid situations which would induce anger. I wanted to print out All things bright and beautiful as a score. I found a website, but when I printed it was gobbledegook. So I tried another, and it printed only half, in landscape. So I set it to print portrait, and it printed gobbledegook. So I photocopied it.

Then I found myself thinking over things years ago which had made me angry. Then I was exhausted. I had solved my problem, and my solution was good enough- just not what I originally wanted. Thinking of those old things was a way of making my anger conscious.

-Are you overanalysing?
-No, don’t think so.

Everything needs to be perfectly as I want it. I notice that when I realise something or make a connection, I berate my stupid self for not making it before. I am doing that less.
-Why do you do that?
-Because it has really mattered. And then the tears come.

I settled an employment tribunal claim the day before the The Actorhearing for a humiliating £250, and just after, realised the killer argument which would have given me a good chance of winning.

Have you a pillow or something? Oh, there. It has a paper case on it- OK-

I scream into it, four times. That is good. It relieves my feelings, yet even in deciding to do that, I had some care for the people in the waiting room. Screaming is not what you want to hear in a doctors’ surgery. They would think you have an 18th century barber-surgeon in here.

I throw the pillow, stained with lipstick and mascara, on the floor.

I thought I was completely worthless. I only had value for what I could achieve. So I needed to get everything perfect, in order to deserve existence. This is an impossible way of being, in employment law- there are clever people trying hard to thwart you. So I just gave up.

I could spend ages trying to convince you I had the killer argument, too late for the tribunal, but can more or less trust my own judgment.

With C, I know the magic telepathy could not work. I could have told her how irritated she made me, but that was a more difficult Assertiveness task, given how much she irritated me. I planned my devastating put-down, knowing she would crack that stupid joke yet again.

La Coiffure-Could you have saved the friendship?
-Well, there will be other friendships.
-At least you knew what you were doing.

I came in early, but because the automated entry system was not working I had to queue at reception. I wasted time with it because it had a postit note saying “This is working, just very slow”. “The trouble with efficiency”, I said loudly to the person ahead of me, “is that if you have no slack you can’t cope with any problems”. Rather than having another person on reception, people started to footre with the touch screen.

-Is there a switch on it?
-It’s switched off at the mains, said the receptionist.

I went over, took the postit note, screwed it up and threw it on the floor. The woman came over, unscrewed it and said it should be there. I looked her in the eye and explained to her that it was misleading, and she removed it again.

I am moderately pleased with that. Mostly assertive, not really aggressive- I did not smash the thing. I prefer to maintain relationships, and here I made her day slightly more unpleasant. I prefer to maintain relationships, perhaps because I do not expect to win confrontations like that. Better, I think, than sticking the anger in a pressure-cooker.

I could “relocate” the memory of that tribunal case. She explains the jargon. It was one of the bad experiences which broke me. And- I don’t need always for things to go my way exactly. It won’t kill me- even if that is exactly what I feared. I shall ask her to explain that one again.

Profane Love

The painting is known as The Opening of the Fifth Seal, but that is not its subject.

The four seals are opened, and out ride the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, War, Famine and Pestilence. When¬†[the Lamb]¬†opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, ‚ÄúHow long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?‚ÄĚ 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

I crib from Prospect magazine and Wikipedia. The damaged top half of the painting was removed in 1880, and Manuel B Cossio, who compiled a catalogue of El Greco’s works in 1908, suggested the title generally used now. Before, it was known as “Profane Love”. Wikipedia “suggests” that previously the upper half of the painting showed sacred love: that this is not known definitely shows the value the painting was held in- even now, if the title is a misconception. Yet it is credited as a major influence on Les Demoiselles dAvignon.

They do not look like the Blessed to me, even angry martyrs calling on God for vengeance. Those children do not look like cherubs, but souls falling into the Pit, and the man on the right could be standing on a rise, or falling. If the clothed man is a living human being and the unclothed people are resurrected dead, it makes sense to see him as St John, but his robe seems buffeted by winds, reminding me of the winds of the second circle of Dante’s Hell, where the lustful are blown about by an eternal storm. We look up at John from around his waist height, raising his hands to God in a way which fits the Great Day of God’s Wrath.

The red cloth dumped on the ground- with bodies underneath?- and the yellow pulled over the kneeling man’s face are not like the robes of the Blessed. Instead, blue yellow green red and white appear to me arrayed for pure composition rather than representation, proto-Mondrian.

If the upper half of the painting was a continuation of this image rather than a separate image, it could only be the sky, or the heavenly host. But John appears to be looking to our right, and slightly outwards from the painting, and I would have thought that the Lamb would command his attention, if visible. I also think the souls would be gazing enraptured or cowering away. I think the lost half is a related picture, rather than the same picture. So this would be the original composition rather than a fragment of it.

That little group of three in the yellow. The woman with her hand to her breast seems to be flirting with the man with his arm right out, looking up at him coquettishly, still, ignoring the storm. Perhaps in Hell we will still be able to use our feminine wiles. Or perhaps El Greco shared my interpretation, that the book is about the World before the Judgment, and living people suffer by death, war, famine and pestilence as we always have.

Turner, Picasso

File:Turner Self Portrait.jpg

What a fine looking man Turner was at 24. The self-portrait is either in the Tate or the National Gallery, I can’t remember which. I was struck by his eyes. They don’t, quite, follow you round the room: he seemed at first to be looking over my shoulder, to see if there was anyone more interesting to talk to.

I moved in closer to have a better look, and was suddenly captivated. Instead of looking out of the canvas, the eyes are¬†angled slightly¬†inwards, as if he is there, looking into my eyes, only a few inches away. I looked into this beautiful man’s eyes, and it was startlingly intimate. I felt warmed and distracted for the rest of the afternoon.

Oh, go on! Come up close to the screen, and see what he does to you.


I suddenly got Cubism when I leant in to kiss Carol, my eyes open, and I saw her face at different angles, at once. I would rather show Dora Maar, but that picture is still in copyright in the US.